Digital Television Switchover
The programme of digital switchover in the UK started in 2008 and will be completed by 2012.
The legal obligations on landlords regarding television signals and aerials are unclear. In the first instance, it will depend on what the tenancy agreement says in relation to the provision and maintenance of fixtures and fittings such as aerials. Unless there are specific provisions in the tenancy agreement there is no direct obligation on the landlord to provide a TV aerial to the property. Section 11 Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 does not cover such matters and there is no way of interpreting it so that it would.
However, where a landlord has let a property with an existing television connection then there may be an obligation, by implication (in the absence of any specific provisions in the tenancy agreement), to maintain the reception where the nature of the service changes. Also where a tenant has requested permission from the landlord to install his own receiver such as a satellite dish and that request has been granted, then again by implication any perceived obligation on the part of the landlord is extinguished.
Approaches to the changeover:
- Landlord pays for any changes needed to the property to receive the new signal. Whilst this will cost initially it can be argued that it is an investment in the future of the property. The rental appeal of a property without a digital receiver would be less than one with it. Also the landlord would be able to have control of any alterations or installations that are required.
- Landlord and tenant share the costs of any required changes. This, it might be argued, is the most equitable scheme as both parties share the benefit but both parties would also have to agree what was going to be carried out. Such an agreement would be best reduced into writing to reduce the possibilities of disagreements later.
- Tenant pays all the switchover costs. This would probably need to be put as a specific requirement as a term of the tenancy agreement in order to be enforceable (see example clause below). As such it would not be a reasonable possibility for existing tenancy agreements but could be negotiated on renewal of tenancy.
Example exclusion clause for tenancy agreements:
“The Tenant agrees to maintain and be responsible for the repair and maintenance of the television aerials, satellite dish and similar signal reception devices (if any) in the Property. The Landlord shall not accept any responsibility for unsatisfactory radio or television reception.”
For further information:
This summary is intended to assist landlords and letting agents to understand the effect of these provisions. It is not an authoritative interpretation - this is a matter for the courts. For more detail, you should refer to the text of the protocol.